MEPS 132:1-9 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps132001

Do marine reserves export adult fish biomass? Evidence from Apo Island, central Philippines

Russ GR, Alcala AC

A frequent expectation of the use of marine reserves in management of coral reef fisheries is maintenance or enhancement of yields to areas adjacent to reserves by adult (post-settlement) movements from reserve to fished areas (the so-called 'spillover effect'). Demonstration of this effect has been rare. This paper reports on some circumstantial evidence derived from underwater visual census monitoring of densities of large predatory coral reef fish [Serranidae (Epinephelinae), Lutjanidae, Lethrinidae and Carangidae as a group] inside and adjacent to a small marine reserve at Apo Island in the central Philippines over a 10 yr period (1983 to 1993). The marine reserve (sanctuary) at Apo Island was established in 1982 and was protected from fishing for the duration of the study. The non-reserve area was open to fishing by up to 200 municipal fishers using traditional fishing gear (bamboo traps, hooks and lines, gill nets and spears). Significant positive correlations of both mean density and species richness of large predatory fish with duration of reserve protection (from 1 to 11 yr) were observed in both the reserve and non-reserve areas surveyed. The minimum distance from the boundary of the reserve to the non-reserve area surveyed was 200 m. During the first 8 yr of reserve protection combined, the density of large predatory fish at distances 200 to 300, 300 to 400 and 400 to 500 m from the reserve boundary did not differ significantly from an even distribution (chi-squared test, p > 0.05). During the period of 9 to 11 yr of protection combined, there was a significantly higher density of these fish in the area closest to the reserve (i.e. in the 200 to 300 m area, chi-squared test, p < 0.05). This visual census data is consistent with a proposed model of adult fish export from the reserve to the non-reserve areas. Along with interview data collected in 1986 and 1992 that showed that fishers were unanimous that their yields had increased since the reserve was implemented, this study provides evidence for export of adult fish from reserve to fished areas.


Marine reserves . Spillover effect . Fish export . Coral reef fish . Fisheries management . Philippines


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